The first half of Liberal Fascism is brilliant — insightful, informative, interesting and disturbingly accurate in its portrayal of early 20th century politics. Fundamentally, there is very little difference between the fascism of Mussolini’s Italy and the progressive leftism of Wilson and FDR. While Hitler adds dogmatic anti-Semitism to the mix, the Nazi’s also aren’t far different. it is disturbingly difficult to tell the difference between left-progressive quotes and fascist quotes.
While the industrial socialists of the Soviet Union nationalised land and industry, the fascists and progressives instead aimed to nationalise the people by tying all life to the state. Private property and business could continue, but only if it played by political rules in the service of “the community”. As Mussolini says on behalf of all leftists: “everything in the State; nothing outside the State”.
When we move closer to today, the book starts to become weaker. Goldberg makes a good case that modern leftists are totalitarian (in the Mussolini sense of wanting the government involved in the totality of your life), but I think he downplays the important distinctions between different sorts of statism and so too quickly throws them all in together. Goldberg does draw a distinction between “daddy-dystopias” (perhaps more correctly called fascist) and “maternal misery” (modern leftism). I think he should have extended this distinction and recognise that the anti-war, civil liberties, internationalist left is a different beast to the eugenics-practicing, white-supremacist, militaristic and nationalist left of 100 years ago.
Though I admit it’s hard to find an appropriate name for the modern version of left-totalitarianism. Perhaps the “welfare state” or the “welfare/corporatist state” or just the “modern left”?
Modern green socialism is probably worth identifying as another beast as well. It has most similarities with Nazism with a holistic animal-rights environmentalist agenda, support of the welfare/corporatist state, race-hate (though this time against whites) and anti-internationalism (anti-trade, anti-immigration). But it differs from fascism and modern leftism in one important respect — green socialism is against progress, technology and human prosperity (see Clive Hamilton). It is perhaps simply an anti-human form of fascism.
Goldberg mostly ignores right-wing sins, though he does briefly touch on George W. Bush as running a statist administration (which I would call “conservative statism” or “right-wing socialism”). Goldberg tries to suggest that such an agenda is “not really conservative” but I think that semantic game has already been lost. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of people on the left and the right, the idea that the government shouldn’t run our life (classical liberalism) has already been forgotten. And it is in this regard that, as Goldberg says, “we are all fascists now”.
Then right at the end, Goldberg leaves the reservation and attempts an unnecessary (and embarrassing) defence of christianity and traditional values. While I (like Goldberg) will happily defend the equal freedoms of christians, traditionalists and bigots, Goldberg goes past this and turns his politics book into a moral lecture. Sex is bad. Gays are up to no good. If you doubt christianity, you might be a fascist. Hollywood is a conspiracy. Militarism is bad, unless you do it for good reasons. He half-heartedly says he will tolerate the weirdos of the world, but warns that they could be dangerous.
There was no need for the moral lecture, and it is a disappointing end to an otherwise valuable book.